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Posts Tagged ‘San Francisco’

The hubs and I celebrated our 3-day President’s Day weekend with a getaway trip to Mendocino.  I’ve been wanting to check out this northern coastal town for a while now and I’m so glad we went.  Mendocino is like stepping back in time, the pace is a little slower, the people are friendlier, and the landscape is amazingly raw and beautiful.

First off, Mendocino is 3.5 hours north of San Francisco.  On the way up though, we made a slight detour to Tomales Bay for oysters, which I highly recommend to anyone heading up.  They were oh so delicious and so worth it despite having to eat outside in the freezing cold because of our dog.  I’ll blog about the oysters and surrounding Point Reyes area in another post though 🙂

We stayed in Fort Bragg, a bigger city just 10 miles north of Mendocino.  It’s not as quaint as Mendocino but offers great coastal trails, cheaper lodging options, and a less touristy feel.  Although I would’ve loved to stay at one of the B&B’s, we opted for a more economical option since we were also bringing along our goldie.  At $60 per night and a $10 pet fee, Super 8 Motel was just what needed, simple and clean accommodations at a good price.

Just 5 minutes from the Super 8 is North Harbor, where there are numerous seafood restaurants:

And across from the Super 8 Motel, there’s a trail right by the Cliff House where you can walk you dog and take in the fresh ocean air.

We went to Cafe Beaujolais for an early dinner since we didn’t make reservations.  Cafe Beaujolais is an intimate French restaurant that focuses on local, seasonal ingredients.  Everything about our meal was amazing.  For appetizers we had the soup of the day, which was a creamy tomato bisque and the local Dungeness crab cakes.  Entrees were the Niman Ranch steak and the Kurobuta pork chop.  And for dessert we shared the flourless Callebaut chocolate lava cake, which was a mistake since I wanted it all to myself!  The restaurant is a must for anyone visiting Mendocino and I highly recommend you make reservations, unless you are willing to eat dinner at 5:30pm like we did.

We started our second day with brunch at Eggheads and coffee from Headland’s Coffeehouse.  Eggheads is your typical no frills neighborhood breakfast joint.  They’re known for their kitschy Wizard of Oz decor and their large variety of omelets.  The hubs had the house special Dungeness crab omelette and I had the garlic special omelette.  I’m pleased to say Eggheads was quite generous with both the crab and the garlic! The food is not going to blow you out of the water but it is a good hearty breakfast.  There is often a wait for the restaurant but they give you a call on your cell phone so you can wander around town while you wait, which we did.  We grabbed coffee at Headlands, which offers a dozen different coffee flavors (pic below) and walked around downtown Fort Bragg which looked like it had been frozen in time.  There are tons of unique stores to keep you occupied for at least an hour and also a good number of art galleries.  We particularly enjoyed the photo gallery just down the street from Eggheads.

After brunch, we picked up Hansel from the hotel and headed to Glass Beach.  The beach is known for the abundance of sea glass from the dumping of garbage many many years ago (back in the early 1900’s).  Overtime the beach was cleaned up and the ocean water eventually wore down the glass from discarded bottles into smooth colorful glass pieces.  Nowadays tourists go to the beach and pick up the glass pieces as souvenirs even though you’re not supposed to.  We didn’t go down to the beach but stayed on the coastal trail walking north.  The trail follows the curves of the cliffs and eventually turns into MacKerricher State Park.

MacKerricher State Park eventually leads to a dog friendly beach.  Hansel definitely enjoyed his time here!  The beach was so pristine and there was only a handful of other people around, I can imagine that it would be so nice on a warm summer day.

After we sufficiently tired Hansel out, we brought him back to the hotel and headed into Mendocino to walk around town.  We grabbed a snack at Frankie’s, which serves pizza and locally made Cowlick’s ice-cream.  They have interesting ice-cream flavors like mushroom, ginger, and egg nog.  And if you eat in, you can amuse yourself with their “questions people ask”!  With questions like “is the mint chip minty?” and “what kind of bread does the ice cream sandwich come with?” it makes you wonder if people really did ask those questions!

Mendocino is definitely a charming little town full of little boutiques and art galleries.  Stop by one of their many fudge shops for a snack.  And for a real hidden gem, stop by the Garden Bakery for their pastries, in particular the apple turnover, which was so yummy and not too sweet.  It’s tucked away in a little alley with a small garden seating area.

We ended our night and our stay with dinner and beer tasting at the North Coast Brewing Co.  The food is nothing to rave about and if you must order food, stick to the fish and chips.  They’re known for their craft beers and their tasting was worth it, $15 for 12 different 4 oz beers.  It was certainly a good end to a relaxing trip!

We took it easy in Mendocino but one can easily fill an entire weekend with activities there.  The Botanical garden is highly recommended and dog friendly.  There’s numerous hiking trails, whale watching trips, and wineries in nearby Anderson Valley too.  The best part about it for me was that it was so dog friendly there.  Most of the hotels and B&B’s allow pets and with the abundance of trails, we were able to keep our dog happy as well.

Here are the details of all the places we visited, which are all recommended:

Cafe Beaujolais – 961 Ukiah St, Mendocino

Frankies – 44951 Ukiah St, Mendocino

Garden Bakery – 10450 Lansing St, Mendocino

Eggheads – 326 North Main St, Fort Bragg

Headlands Coffeehouse – 120 East Laurel St, Fort Bragg

North Coast Brewing Co – 455 North Main St, Fort Bragg

Glass Beach – 320 East Oak St, Fort Bragg

MacKerricher State Park – 24100 MacKerricher Park Rd, Fort Bragg

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On a beautiful day like today, one of the top San Franciscan things to do is pack a picnic and head over to Dolores Park to soak in some rays and enjoy great people watching.  Located between the Mission District and the Castro, there’s no shortage of good eats.  Some of my favorite places to pick up food are below:

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Ike’s Place is known for some pretty epic sandwiches.  They a huge selection of sandwiches with a variety of options for meats, bread, and toppings, but all of them are served with Ike’s dirty sauce, which is what makes the sandwiches so delicious.  The place is well known and is always packed though so be prepared for a wait.

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Bi-Rite Market is a local gourmet market that is a must for any serious foodie.  There’s a deli counter where you can order sandwiches which change seasonally.  The market is small but carries a well curated selection of artisanal products and is full of local Northern California treats like Acme bread and Cowgirl Creamery cheeses.  There’s a great selection of cured meats, fresh baked breads, cheeses, and many other ready-to-eat products, and of course wine, making for a great spot to pack a picnic basket!

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And let’s not forget Bi-Rite Creamery, the sister store to the market serving ice-cream and baked goods.  No matter the time of day or the weather, there’s always a line for the delicious ice-cream.  But with flavors like the famous salted caramel, honey lavender, and earl grey, who can resist? And it doesn’t help that they are constantly coming up with new flavors so you have to keep coming back!

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And finally my absolute favorite weekend treat are the pastries at Tartine Bakery.  I’ve tried nearly all the pastries and brunch items here and they are all delicious.  My favorites are definitely the morning bun (pic above), which is similar to a cinnamon roll but with an orange zest to it, the frangipane croissant, essentially an almond croissant, and the croque monsieur.  But they also have butter, chocolate, and ham & cheese croissants, quiches, scones, and bread pudding, all yummy.  A word of warning though, there’s always a line, even at 9am on a Sunday (who wakes up that early on a Sunday???), and if you get there past 10:30am, there’s a good chance they’ll be out of the popular items, namely the morning bun and many of the croissants.  But they also have mouthwatering desserts, sandwiches, and fresh baked bread, so you can still get something delicious if you happen to be there later in the day.

And here’s a picture of Dolores Park from today.  See the throngs of people down there?  So yeah, just know that when it’s an absolute gorgeous and warm day like today, the park will be crowded and there will be very interesting people watching going on but that’s all part of the local San Francisco experience 😀

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Last weekend was the hub’s birthday and it’s been a ritual now for the past few years to celebrate at a steakhouse.  Being new to the area, we selected Harris’ Steakhouse based on yelp reviews and it lived up to expectations.  I’m not a red meat-eater so most of the review will be based on the hubs’ opinion.

First off, as you can see above, the decor of the restaurant was reminiscent of a 1960s steakhouse for businessmen.  It was still in good condition but definitely gave off a stuffy formal vibe.  I made reservations and due to the weather, we were 10 minutes late, but despite that, the host was really nice and we were seated promptly, which is a huge improvement from House of Prime Rib, where we waited nearly 45 minutes before being seated, despite having reservations and being early.  The service at Harris’ really was quite good and our waiter did a good job of making sure we had everything we needed.

On to the food.  We started off with the Veal Sweetbreads and Crab Cakes with Beurre Blanc.  The hubs loves sweetbreads and was eager to try Harris’ version.  While he liked the dish and thought it was tasty, he preferred sweetbreads just simply grilled to really taste the flavor over Harris’ saucier version.  I thought the crab cakes were done really well.  It was very flavorful, although maybe a tad on the salty side.  For entrees, hubs got the Bone-in Ribeye Steak and I had the Salmon served with scalloped potatoes instead of the rice.  The salmon was good, but the champagne sauce was a little rich so it wiped out the healthiness aspect of the dish.  The scalloped potatoes however were absolutely delicious.  The hubs thought the rib-eye was done well, he likes it medium rare, and definitely could tell that it was quality meat.  We also ordered a side of the Deep Fried Onion Rings which was good, it was fried just the right amount and it was a very generous portion.

Overall we both felt that the food was good, but not spectacular.  The formal feel of the restaurant and the good service makes this restaurant a safe bet for a special occasion, especially for steak lovers.  But if you’re looking for a good piece of meat for a reasonable price, then House of Prime Rib definitely is the better option, even with the annoying wait.  One other thing, the restaurant calls for business casual attire, but there were definitely customers dressed casually and they still got seated and served.  We also saw customers that were dressed for a night on the town too so really you can just wear whatever you feel comfortable with.

Harris’ Restaurant

2100 Van Ness Ave, at the corner of Pacific Ave.

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Hey there! Remember when I waxed poetic about the pork belly at Incanto?  Well, I may have found a dish that rivals it and it’s that dish you see up there in the picture.  The salt roasted bone marrow appetizer at Wayfare Tavern.  Perfectly paired with sourdough bread and rutabaga jam, the bone marrow was tasty and oh so fatty in a good way.  But let me start from the beginning.

Wayfare Tavern is Tyler Florence’s flagship restaurant, and being a fan of Tyler Florence, I knew we had to try it out.  I made reservations a month in advance but could only manage a 9:15pm slot, which worked out well for us since we ended up sitting at the chef’s table, which is basically a counter with a direct view of the kitchen and the chefs hard at work.  It was so much fun seeing the chefs preparing all the food and in the end we wanted to try everything we saw coming out of that kitchen!

I loved everything about the restaurant.  From the moment we stepped through the door, everyone from the hostess to the waitstaff were friendly.  The ambiance is what you’d expect of a tavern, warm and inviting yet lively.  If you go, I’d highly recommend trying to get a seat at the chef’s table or at the very least on the first floor since that’s where all the action is.

Most restaurants start off their customers with a few slices of bread and butter, not Wayfare though.  They brought out freshly baked popovers!  I wish I took a picture, but trust me when I say it was delicious.  Also I’ve never seen the hubs rave about bread so much before.  It was hard narrowing down appetizers but we managed to select the bone marrow of course and the deviled eggs, which I had read about alot in reviews.  I’ll let the picture speak for itself.

For entrees, the hubs settled with the guinness braised lamb shank and I had the organic fried chicken.  I’m not a lamb person so I can’t comment but the hubs praised its flavor and tenderness.  As with everything we tried, the fried chicken was good as well.  If you’re looking for an outstanding dish with flavors exploding in your mouth, this is not it, but it is really good fried chicken.

Even though we were stuffed, we couldn’t help ourselves and ordered the wayfare tavern chocolate cream pie.  And it was…. you guessed it… so good!  It was the perfect sweetness, which is how we judge our desserts, sweet, but not too sweet.  And to top it off, the waiter brought over two little warm butter cookies to complement the dessert.  I don’t know that it necessarily complemented it but they sure were yummy!  Excuse the picture below, I was too excited and took a bite before remembering to take a photo!

Wayfare’s cuisine can be described as creative American comfort food, which is why the hubs and I enjoyed it so much.  I don’t really consider ourselves foodies  since we don’t dissect every aspect of a dish but we do appreciate and enjoy good food and we especially love comfort type food done really well so Wayfare was definitely a winner in both our books and a place we’d love to visit again and again and…

Wayfare Tavern

558 Sacramento Street, between Leidesdorff and Montgomery St.

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We’re back to our regularly schedule Friday date night!  And what a night it was! I had been wanting to go to Frances forever and finally got my chance.  The restaurant is so popular I had to book the reservation a month in advance and even then could only get a 9:30pm table.  But it was worth it!

Even though Frances is a one-michelin starred restaurant, the price range is still reasonable and the atmosphere is casual and unpretentious.  The restaurant is small and you end up sitting really close to the other customers so this is not the place if you want some privacy.  The service however is great.  We arrived at the restaurant 20 minutes early and they seated us right away.  The host was really friendly and attentive, as was our waiter, who even made a point to tell us not to feel pressured to drink all of the wine.  Frances sells their own blend of house red and white wine, which they sell at a $1 an ounce.  They bring out a carafe of it and you only pay what you pour.  Even without the waiter’s urging though, the hubs and I found ourselves finishing it, $16 for 4 small glasses of wine, not too shabby.

To start, we ordered two bouchees (bites in French), the applewood smoked bacon beignets and the grilled local calamari.  The beignets were wonderful.  It was savory with a very strong bacon flavor and served with creme fraiche and chives.  The calamari dish was a good balance to the beignet.  It was grilled perfectly and tasted really fresh.  The hubs ordered the five dot ranch bavette steak and I had the caramelized atlantic scallops.  The hubs thought the steak was cooked perfectly (medium rare) and extremely tasty.  The scallops were also delicious.  My only gripe with the dish was that there were only two, albeit very large, scallops.  The portions are on the smaller side but you’ll be fine if you also order an appetizer.  Or you can request bread, as I did.  Frances doesn’t automatically bring bread to the table as most restaurants do, but they do have it available if you ask for it, and you should since it’s Acme bread!

To cap off the evening, we ordered the brown butter ‘friand’ cake with roasted warren pears, huckleberries, and creme fraiche.  A friand is similar to a financier, a small french teacake, which actually reminded me of a madeleine.  It was delicious!  As an example of how good their service is, the table next to hours ordered the friand cake before us but the waiter mistakenly served it to us first (oops) so the restaurant gave them a small plate of chocolates and an extra dessert!  Man, I wish they mistakenly give our dessert away!

Frances is a MUST try, but just make sure you make a reservation in advance, it’s popular!

Frances

3870 17th Street, between Pond and Noe St.

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Twin Peaks is one of the highest hills in San Francisco and offers sweeping views of most of the city.  On a clear day you can see all of the bay, the Bay Bridge, downtown, the Golden Gate Bridge, and even glimpses of the ocean.  Most people will visit the peak by driving or taking a tour bus up there, park, and walk two steps to the observation area.  However, if you can, I’d highly recommend walking up to the Twin Peaks summit.  From the Cole & Carl St. muni stop in Cole Valley, you can walk over to Clayton St., make a right onto Twin Peaks Boulevard and follow all the way to the top.  As you walk through the residential neighborhood, admiring the lovely homes, you’ll get glimpses of the city skyline.

The walk is rather steep and it’s approximately 1 mile to the top, but you will be rewarded with awesome views.  Afterwards, treat yourself to a delicious brunch at Zazie in Cole Valley or if the wait is too long, head across the street to La Boulange for coffee and pastries.  Then round out your day with some window shopping and people watching a few blocks away on Haight Street, best known for the being the center of the hippie movement in the ’60’s.  Nowadays, it’s a bohemian neighborhood filled with boutique, bookstores, and coffee shops.  It’s also a fun place to go if you want to recycle or trade some personal goods since the street is full of consignment shops and is home to Amoeba Records, which will buy, sell, and trade your used records, CDs, and DVDs.

 

What: Twin Peaks

Where: Start at Cole & Carl Street

Activity: Hiking, Walking (~2 miles roundtrip, Easy to Moderate with steep inclines)

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I have a love-hate relationship with the San Francisco hills.  Living on top of a hill, it’s always a little windier and chillier than the rest of the city.  Not only that, but if I want to take a walk, grab a cup of coffee, or grocery shop, I simply walk down the hill which is all well and good, until I have to drudge up that blasted hill later to get home.  I convince myself that my rear will thank me one day, but I have yet to see any changes.  However, living in a hilly city also means unbelievable views.  I’m constantly amazed that no matter how many hills I climb up, I will always get a different view of the city that takes my breath away.

The hubs and I are fortunate enough to live close to Buena Vista Park and Corona Heights, two parks that are literally a block apart but offers a slightly different perspective of the city.

There are several entrance points to the Buena Vista Park, from the bottom at Haight Street, all along Buena Vista Avenue, and also at the top at Upper Terrace.  Once you enter the park though, it’s like another world, you don’t feel like you are in the middle of a major city until you get glimpses of the skyline through the trees.

Since the park is elevated it makes for a good workout just by walking to the top.  There’s paved trails, unpaved trails, and stairs within the park, making for a nice, varied walk.

It’s a wonderful park to bring your pooch or if you want some peace and quiet since it’s mostly frequented by locals looking to work out or walk their dog off leash.  We have been to the park about every other week since we moved here and we’ve never seen more than a handful of people during our entire walk.  There’s also a children’s playground, tennis courts, dog run, and benches sprinkled throughout.  It’s probably a 1 hour leisurely stroll to the top and back down again, making for a wonderful way to get some fresh air.

If you have time, exit Buena Vista Park at the Upper Terrace entrance, walk a block to Masonic Avenue, take a left and head straight to Corona Heights Park.  This park is mostly barren, a stark contrast to the heavily wooded park you just came from, but if you climb to the peak, you will have an expansive unobstructed view of downtown San Francisco.

My sentiments exactly!

What: Buena Vista Park and Corona Heights Park

Where: Multiple entrances to Buena Vista, Roosevelt and Museum Way for Corona Heights

Activity: Hiking, Walking (~1 hour round-trip, Easy to Moderate)

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